While the nation’s focus turns from Iraq to Iran, the Taliban and its allies are making a comeback. Scattered headlines in mainstream media — a recent suicide car bombing in Kabul and the release of beheading videos from the Taliban — temporarily bring Afghanistan back to the forefront, but Americans cannot forget the important battle that remains for the long term stability of the country.
Nearly five years ago, Afghans had their first glimpse of hope for a more stable and democratic future. They had endured decades of a brutal civil war and the mercilessness of the Taliban regime. Today, Afghanistan has made significant progress, but remains a target and potential breeding ground for terrorists and religious extremists. Unless America is vigilant in helping Afghanistan in this critical early stage, terrorism will rise and the progress Afghanistan has made will be put at great risk.
"Suicide bombings" are words usually associated today with Iraq. However, last Sunday former president Sibghatullah Mujaddedi became all too familiar with this term and the fear it inspires when he narrowly avoided a suicide car bombing in Kabul. The attack left him with burn injuries and killed two civilians.
Afghans have, unfortunately, been forced to grow quite accustomed to violence, especially in tribal areas where security has long been an empty word; however, this incident occurred in Kabul, the nation’s capital. This attack in the city that has enjoyed the greatest security advances suggests an enemy reinvigorated and the possibility of larger attacks. Terrorism is gaining momentum in Afghanistan at a time when the U.S is drawing down its military forces.
It’s tempting for the United States to shift focus, and resources, away from Afghanistan. The Taliban, and its allies, will take advantage of any failing on our part to support essential friendships. Americans must remember that in this war on terror, whether you name our enemies "Taliban" or "al Qaeda" makes no difference. They represent the same risk that our nation recognized as intolerable five years ago.
Those Afghans who sincerely work on the side of peace and progress need help now more than ever from the international community to defeat terrorism, and prevent any extremist regime from holding Afghanistan back from stability and democratization.
Let us not forget that Afghanistan, with the help of the U.S. and its allies, has made remarkable strides since the end of 2001. It has an elected government, its children are going back to school, and it has fashioned a constitution, which U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has referred to as "…the most enlightened in the Islamic world."
Afghan women who had been (and continue to be) targeted by the Taliban did not miss a beat immediately after the regime’s fall. Afghanistan has now seen its first female presidential candidate, first female governor, several MPs, and even a few cabinet members.
However, these gains are by no means permanent. A worrisome security situation may reverse established progress. We live in a world that is not only interdependent politically and economically, but also ideologically. The Taliban, or al Qaeda, or any similar organization, cannot coexist along side a population fiercely committed to the pursuit of liberty and human dignity. It is no surprise that rural and tribal areas, where there is weaker support for women’s political and economic participation, are also neighborhoods that act as safe havens for terrorists.
Today’s Afghans struggle to ensure that the next generation will live the lives they never had. It will be a long project that will require an extended commitment from the international community. With strong security and cooperation from the international community, Afghanistan’s neighbors, and their constituencies, the insurgents will ultimately be defeated. All Afghans will be better off — and so will we.